PMEL Acoustics Program logo National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Acoustics Program
station map

NOAA/NPS Ocean Noise Reference Station Network

This unique network of hydrophones is a collaborative effort between OAR’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), all NMFS Science Centers, the NOS National Marine Sanctuary System, and the National Park Service to establish and collect consistent and comparable long-term acoustic data sets covering all major regions of the U.S.


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For a Google Earth view of the stations, open the kmz file here.





Passive acoustic monitoring of the ocean ambient sound field is a critical aspect of NOAA’s mandate for ocean and coastal stewardship. This includes detecting and characterizing: (1) sounds produced and used by living marine resources (e.g., endangered marine mammals); (2) natural sources of noise from physical oceanographic processes; and (3) anthropogenic noise sources that contribute to the overall ocean noise environment. Noise generated by anthropogenic activities (especially commercial shipping and seismic oil & gas exploration) is increasingly being recognized as a potential threat to marine mammals which are protected in the U.S. by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Current scientific data suggest that increased ambient noise levels impact marine mammals by hindering communication (Hatch et al. 2012), altering communication behavior (Parks et al. 2013), altering locomotive behavior (Pirotta et al. 2013), and inducing stress (Rolland et al. 2012).


Additional concerns associated with the degraded acoustic quality of diverse habitats broaden these concerns to include possible repercussions for fish and invertebrate species, many of which NOAA manages as commercially-harvested, protects as resources within sanctuaries, or studies as key elements to sustaining healthy ecosystems. For these reasons it is important for science-based regulatory agencies including NOAA to monitor long-term trends and changes in the ambient sound field.

Research Objective:

The objective of the project is to establish a network of ocean noise reference stations in U.S. waters to monitor long-term changes and trends in the underwater ambient sound field (McDonald et al. 2006). The identical autonomous acoustic recording systems were developed and built in-house at PMEL to ensure proper calibration and consistency of the collected data sets. The hydrophone moorings are currently deployed in the following areas:



Station Location Partners Latitude Longitude Water depth [m] AUH depth [m] Initial Deployment Most Recent Deployment
NRS01 Alaskan Arctic NOAA/AFSC 72.44 -156.55 1,000 500 October 2014 September 2015
NRS02 Gulf of Alaska NOAA/PMEL 50.25 -145.13 4,250 500 January 2015 August 2016
NRS03 Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary NOAA/NWFSC & NOAA/OCNMS 47.77 -125.52 936 488 September 2014 September 2017
NRS04 Hawaiian Islands NOAA/PIFSC 22.33 -157.67 ~4,900 900 July 2015 July 2017
NRS05 Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary NOAA/SWFSC 33.9 -119.58 1,000 900 October 2014 November 2015
NRS06 Gulf of Mexico NOAA/SEFSC 28.25 -86.83 1,230 900 July 2014 April 2016
NRS07 Southeastern continental U.S. (SE US) NOAA/SEFSC 29.33 -77.99 870 900 April 2015 August 2016
NRS08 Northeastern continental U.S. (NE US) NOAA/NEFSC 39.01 -67.27 ~3,550 900 June 2014 April 2016
NRS09 Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary NOAA/SBNMS 42.4 -70.13 79 79 October 2014 November 2016
NRS10 Tutuila Island, National Park of American Samoa NPS & NPAS -14.27 -170.72 33 33 June 2015 July 2017
NRS11 Cordell Bank Coast National Marine Sanctuary NOAA/CBNMS 37.88 -126.44 534 500 October 2015 October 2017
NRS12 Buck Island Reef National Monument, U.S. Virgin Islands (US VI) NOAA & NPS 17.79 -64.65 40 40 November 2016 May 2017


It is of critical importance to continue these baseline measurements so we can establish as long a time series as possible to gauge the changes induced by anthropogenic and climate stressors on the marine ambient sound environment (for a summary see Hildebrand 2009). We will investigate the spatio-temporal variability in low-frequency deep ocean ambient sound levels (10 - 2,200 Hz) at these 12 ocean regions within the U.S. EEZ. Our ongoing goal is to maintain (and possibly expand) the array and build a multi-year record of ambient sound levels in these regions. We will then be able to identify and delineate seasonal and long-term man-made and climate-induced noise sources.


Robert P. Dziak, Joe Haxel, Samara Haver,
Haru Matsumoto, David K. Mellinger

2115 SE OSU Drive
Newport, OR 97365


Holger Klinck
Bioacoustics Research Program,
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University
159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Jay Barlow 
8901 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037
Catherine Berchok
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Brad Hanson, Marla Holt
2725 Montlake Boulevard East
Seattle, WA 98112
Leila Hatch
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
175 Edward Foster Road
Scituate, MA 02066
Christian Meinig
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Erin Oleson
1601 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96814
Melissa Soldevilla
75 Virginia Beach Drive
Miami, FL  33149
Sofie Van Parijs
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Jason Gedamke
Office of Science and Technology, NOAA Fisheries
1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA
Megan F. McKenna, Eva DiDonato
National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division
1201 Oakridge Drive, Suite 100
Fort Collins, CO 80525, USA,
Danielle Lipski
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, USA
Sue E. Moore
NOAA NMFS/Office of Science and Technology
7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA


Hatch, L.T., Clark, C.W., Van Parijs, S.M., Frankel, A.S., and Ponirakis D.W. (2012): Quantifying loss of acoustic communication space for right whales in and around a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary. Conservation Biology, 26:983-994.

Hildebrand, J.A. (2009): Anthropogenic and natural sources of ambient noise in the ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 395:5-20.

McDonald, M.A., Hildebrand, J.A., and Wiggins, S. M. (2006): Increase in deep ocean ambient noise in the Northeast Pacific west of San Nicolas Island, California. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1520:711-718.

Porter, M., and Henderson, L. (2013): Global ocean soundscapes. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 19:010050 (6 pages).

Parks, S.E., Johnson, M.P., Nowacek, D.P., and Tyack, P.L. (2012): Changes in Vocal Behavior of North Atlantic Right Whales in Increased Noise. In: The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life, Popper, A.N., Hawkins, A. eds., Springer, pp. 317-320.

Pirotta, E., Milor, R., Moretti, D., Di Marzio, N., Tyack, P.L., and Hastie, G. (2013): Vessel Noise Affects Beaked Whale Behavior: Results of a Dedicated Acoustic Response Study. PLoS ONE, 7(8):e42535.

Rolland, R.M., Parks, S.E., Hunt, K.E., Castellote, M., Corkeron, P.J., Nowacek, D.P., Wasser, S.K., and Kraus, S.D. (2012): Evidence that ship noise increases stress in right whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 279:2363-2368.